The weather remains incredibly warm at the moment, even when its cloudy and rainy, although Sheppey seems to have had a lot less rain than other areas in Kent. Walking round the reserve is certainly an enjoyable experience at the moment, rather than being in cold winds, but as a gardener, a nice hard frost would be lovely, if only to slow down the still fast growing lawns.
The first Harrier Roost Count took place on Sunday evening, unfortunately because it was the result of being postponed from the previous Sunday, I was unavailable due to being in Surrey, spending some time in the heathland and woods of Hawley Woods, as per below.
Getting back to the Roost Count, I haven't seen the various count totals yet but do know that the guy who counts the harriers going in to roost in the extensive reed beds along Capel Fleet eastwards from the Raptor Viewing Mound, had a nil count. This was not because Marsh Harriers weren't around but because they were regularly disturbed from attempting to roost by duck shooters shooting along the same reed beds. I say "duck shooters" and not wildfowlers, because there is a world of difference between these pampered guys and the true wildfowlers who experience the extreme conditions of the mudflats and saltings of the estuaries.
The fact that the duck shooters still shoot and disturb the Capel Fleet reed beds is a bit of a joke really when one considers that the whole of Capel Fleet is covered by SSSI status, but I have been told in the past that where such things were taking place before classification then they can't be stopped!! To be honest there have also been odd occasions in recent years where a digger has been used to create small pools in or close to the reed beds as well, but when I've mentioned it to Natural England they've always accepted the land owner's explanation that it was reed bed improvement work. The fact that corn then gets regularly thrown into these pools to attract ducks and that men with guns just happen to hide around these pools on a Sunday night, seems to have passed NE by.
Having said all that, I saw the reserve's first Hen Harrier of this autumn this morning, a ringtail and a really welcome sight.
One of the reserve's, years old ditch crossing planks, is starting to show it's age now and part rotting. It's been there for much longer than the 28 years that I've been wandering around there and I still use it most weeks. When you've walked the length of one long field on the marsh and there is a ditch between that field and the next one these planks are invaluable to avoid having to retrace your steps. In the old days when livestock "lookers" still walked around the fields rather than as now, using quad bikes, these planks would of been a vital part of the marsh infrastructure, sadly few get replaced these days.
I should also add that in a normal winter the water level in that ditch will normally be close to touching that plank and in a wet one, the plank will be submerged, so we have some way to go yet.
And at the same time as walking round checking on the livestock the "looker" would also have time to notice all manner of wildlife events going on around him as the seasons changed. One such event would the autumn arrival of field mushrooms, ripe and free for the picking. I photographed these yesterday morning before taking them home for my dinner and boy were they delicious to eat, a few more tonight in an ommlette is on the cards, topped off with a large glass of good Pinot Noir, me thinks .
So far this year I've made two litres of Slow Gin, ate some blackberries and now the mushrooms, all from the countryside, I'm now pondering over the use of rose hips.